Downtown parking needs draw attention from SSMID

The parking needs of the hundreds of people who come to downtown Fort Dodge every weekday will apparently get some more attention from local officials in the coming year.

Another parking lot may be rebuilt like the one at First Avenue North and 10th Street was recently.

Also, an analysis of the available parking spaces and the projected need for more is already underway.

”I think that needs to be our major project for the 2014 year,” Rich Seltz, the chairman of the Self-Supported Municipal Improvement District board, said Tuesday.

”As the crosstown connector moves forward, parking will become more of an issue,” he added.

The crosstown connector is a project that would turn First Avenue South into a two-way street for its entire length. As part of that project, First and Second avenues south would be joined with a new roundabout intersection at Sixth Street.

Stephanie Houk Sheetz, the senior city planner, said the parking lot goal for 2014 is to rebuild one of them.

The lot at North Seventh Street and Third Avenue North is one possibility. It could be rebuilt in connection with a planned expansion of the Salvation Army building at 126 N. Seventh St.

The Salvation Army plan calls for a 13,000-square-foot addition onto the building. It would be paid for with donations earmarked for the building. No money collected in the red kettles during the Christmas season would be spent on the project.

As part of the expansion, the Salvation Army would acquire the north half of the parking lot and rebuild it. The city would retain the south half and rebuild it at the same time.

The project was announced in February. City Councilman Kim Alstott, a member of the local Salvation Army board, told his fellow council members recently that it awaits action by officials at Salvation Army headquarters.

Another potential target for an overhaul is the lot at First Avenue North and Sixth Street, across from the former library.

Houk Sheetz said she is compiling information on parking lot usage. She added that she also wants to develop a projection of what the parking needs would be if all the commercial buildings downtown were fully occupied.

Jim Bird, vice chairman of the district’s board, said a ”wish list” for downtown parking lots is needed. He added that owners of downtown property should contribute to a public-private partnership for parking lots.

”Just because we own property downtown doesn’t mean the city should give us parking lots for free,” he said.

The Self-Supported Municipal Improvement District is a roughly 33-block area in which property owners pay an extra tax to finance improvements there.